Speed Reads

if a podcast drops in a forest...

Why it's harder than ever to make a hit podcast

If it feels like there are a million new podcasts for you to try, that's probably because there are. And if it seems like you haven't heard of a new, big hit in a while, that might be because you haven't.

Despite an expansion in podcast availability, options, and overall listenership, "the audience for individual new shows is shrinking across the board," Bloomberg reports.

For example, of the 10 most popular podcasts in the U.S. last year, all were an average of more than 7 years old, with three of the top five over a decade old. Only a few podcasts in the top 50 were less than two years old, and none of those were in the top 25.

The number of new podcasts (of which there are more than ever) has grown faster than the audience for podcasts, meaning total listeners per show has dropped as options continue to expand. Older shows, however, having established themselves years ago in what was a less crowded marketpace, continue to add fans as the newer shows struggle to gain converts.

"It's always easier to find an audience when you are early to a trend," Bloomberg explains.

So what to do about it? Several executives told Bloomberg they expect the industry to learn from radio. Companies should use existing hits to promote new shows, efforts that will likely involve "an investment in marketing, and an innovation in formats," Bloomberg writes. 

Another strategy involves capitalizing on markets abroad; clever shows might have more room to grow in other countries than they do in the U.S. 

Ultimately, "it's not that new podcasts can't be hits," Bloomberg writes. "But the bar for being a hit is higher, which means it's going to take longer (and a lot more work) to get there."